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First Look: iTunes in the Cloud

Christopher Breen, | June 7, 2011
What the iCloud feature and iTunes Match bring to the music party

Recently I considered, in a best-of-all-worlds fashion, what media in an iCloud might look like. With the official unveiling of iCloud we now know the reality. While I certainly didn’t get everything on my wish list—streaming music and video, remote access to media stored on your computer, and an iTunes music subscription service—iTunes in the cloud is a solid step forward for consumers and one that should cause Google and Amazon to strongly consider their next moves.

What it is

The key components of iTunes in the Cloud are these: The ability for you to push new iTunes music purchases to your iOS devices and computer, the opportunity to re-download music that you’ve purchased from the iTunes Store, and (for an annual fee of $25) the option to have access to not only the music you’ve purchased from the iTunes Store, but any music stored in your iTunes library—including music you’ve ripped or purchased from another outlet such as Amazon MP3. In real-world use the three break down this way:

Pushy music On your iPhone (or other supported iOS device), you navigate to Settings -> Store. There, you can enable an Automatic Downloads option individually for Music, Apps, and Books. You later purchase an album on your Mac. That album is then automatically downloaded to your iPhone when it’s connected to the Internet via Wi-Fi or, optionally, 3G. And it can go in the other direction—iPhone purchases are automatically downloaded to your computer or other iOS devices.

Download music (again) In the past if you lost your purchased music because of a computer crash (and the lack of foresight to back up your purchases) you had to ask Apple if you could pretty-please download them again. Permission was invariably granted, but it was a pain. That roadblock is gone with iTunes in the cloud. Now you can re-download the unprotected music you’ve purchased at a bit rate of 256kbps AAC. If you purchased DRM-protected 128kbps AAC files and re-download them, they’ll download in the same format. Regrettably, the tracks aren’t updated to DRM-free 256kbps AAC files. You still have to pay 30 cents per track or $3 per album to upgrade them to that format.

You can currently re-download your music on an iPhone 3GS, iPhone 4 (GSM model), iPod touch (3rd and 4th generation), iPad, or iPad 2 running iOS 4.3.1 or later by launching the iTunes app, tapping the Purchased button, choosing the song or album you wish to re-download, and tapping the cloud button. The music will then download to your device. You’ll similarly see Purchased buttons in the App Store and iBookstore apps and they work the same way. Choose content you’ve previously purchased and download it to your device (you’ve been able to re-download apps and books for a while, but the process wasn’t always very clear).


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